Sybil Connolly (1921-1998) built one of the first Irish fashion houses with her exquisite ballroom dresses and skirts made of pleated handkerchief linen, which was hand-crafted in cottages along the Irish countryside. She became well known for her romantic style that reinterpreted traditional Irish textiles into haute couture for clients like Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.
The first floor drawing room of her Georgian mansion in Dublin, 71 Merrion Square that she used as a boutique for fitting clients and for fashion shows, was also wallpapered in Irish pleated linen.
Connolly is one of the women featured in How They Decorated by P. Gaye Tapp (see previous post).
“There are many celebrated women who lived with great style but are lost to pages of old magazines or books, waiting to be rediscovered,” writes P. Gaye Tapp in the first line of her newly released book How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century. There is a lengthy history of interior designers looking back at their predecessors with respect and admiration—a nod to the past as a way of showing us what we can learn from this backwards glance. Gaye P. Tapp, interior designer, author, and blogger, joins this legacy with her book, which is well-researched and quite stylish itself with introductory essays, photographs (some that have not been published before), and charming illustrations of interiors, also an aspect of interior decorating with a long history (the cover is a Cecil Beaton drawing that sets the tone of the book perfectly). Read more
While I have noticed recently that the decorating world seems to be having a maximalist, pattern-on-pattern moment, sometimes it is all about the hue and patina and texture, and a less-is-more kind of beauty that turns our heads. Here, on a long narrow covered porch, none of the elements are shouting for our attention. Instead the subtle gray-taupe of the painted brick, painted wood floor, stone table, architectural mirror, and tall silver lantern quietly make a statement. Even the pop of color from the pink hydrangea and the green palm in the simple square vase accent this vignette in a soothing, understated way.
My good friend gave me a plate of homemade lavender shortbread for my birthday, a thoughtful and surprisingly elegant gift, and something I had never had before.
Shortbread is actually a biscuit, which I love for its rustic simplicity (butter, sugar, and flour), and the fact that it isn’t sweet, sweet, only semi-sweet (perfect with coffee or tea). The addition of the lavender was entirely new to me; it gives the shortbread a slightly perfumed taste and (I think) a touch of refinement. Read more
“The routine of our days had changed, and we were living outdoors. Getting dressed took thirty seconds. There were fresh figs and melons for breakfast, and errands were done early, before the warmth of the sun turned to heat in mid-morning. The flagstones around the pool were hot to touch, the water still cool enough to bring us up from the first dive with a gasp. We slipped into the habit of that sensible Mediterranean indulgence, the siesta.”
~ From “June” in A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Who doesn’t love a porch? Their long history dates back to ancient Greece and Rome—I suppose we needed a place to stop and catch our breath before crossing the threshold. Now, there are so many shapes and sizes (I don’t mean decks, which began to replace porches during the 70s and 80s, but honestly always seemed like an afterthought to me). The porches that I have in mind are the kind that correspond with the architecture of the house, blend in with the rhythm of the household, and more or less, steal our hearts.
Here are seven porches that caught our attention over the past year, and might inspire you as well. Read more
The Palm House at the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens in Baltimore City sits just off Druid Hill Park Lane, not far from the Maryland Zoo (many people believe it to be the old Reptile House, which it is not and never was, but it is a very common mistake). It is, and always has been, a gorgeous Victorian glass house filled with tropical plants and palm trees that reach high toward the ceiling where you can see the sky. It opened to the public in 1888 and is still going strong today. Read more
Spring in Baltimore means Preakness.
But even though I grew up in the Baltimore area (my grandfather actually lived in the Pimlico neighborhood), I’ve never been to the Preakness. Still, for me, like so many of us from around here, it’s just part of the fabric of life. Because even if you don’t attend the race itself, it’s all about the Preakness on the 3rd Saturday of May. Read more
I’m not entirely sure why, but flower books seem to lift the spirits almost as much as the flowers themselves. It might have something to do with how flower books allow us to cross so many thresholds: what I mean is the blurring of boundaries between home and garden that happens on the pages and in our minds as we read and look at the photographs—for we are invited into the world of living a flower-inspired life no matter what our real circumstances are. So that even if we have no garden or cut flowers that particular day, we have the book itself to cheer us on.
Here are three recently published flower books that I have very much enjoyed poring over. I hope you will too. Read more